HIFIMAN Edition XS Review
HIFIMAN Edition XS Review
The HIFIMAN Edition XS was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t receive monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The price of the Edition XS is $499 and you can buy it from directly from HIFIMAN.
HIFIMAN Edition XS
The HIFIMAN Edition XS represents an updated version of the popular Edition X, which was originally introduced in 2016. With several key improvements over its predecessor, the Edition XS builds upon its earlier success. One of the most notable upgrades is the addition of the company’s NEO supernano diaphragm, which is a significant 75% thinner than the previous model. This results in incredibly fast response times, allowing for detailed and distortion-free sonic output.
Furthermore, the Edition XS features a new Stealth Magnets design that is unlike traditional magnet configurations. Thanks to their unique shape, the Stealth Magnets allow sound waves to pass through without generating interference. This acoustically transparent design greatly reduces wave diffraction turbulence, which can negatively impact the integrity of sound waves. As a result, the reduced distortion yields a pure and accurate full-range sound output.
Build quality and appearance
The new Edition XS much resembles its predecessor as it has the same, oval shaped ear-cups that engulf the whole ear offering great wearing comfort.
The exterior is made from a refined matte black material with metallic grilles and the hybrid ear-pads feature high-grade memory foam for the most comfortable fit and elasticity.
The headband adopts the new design with the cushioned interior instead of the plain leather strap that was previously used.
Some users may find this type more comfortable but I have to admit that I prefer the suspended design.
Clamping force is medium and although the adjustable, metal made, yokes don’t swivel the fit is actually good.
Build quality is typical HIFIMAN, not bad but you can find better made and more luxurious looking headphones for the same price.
The overall assembly is very good, there is no cracking noise during headband adjustment or when you try to fit the headphone at your head.
The headphone is lightweight and very comfortable, even after extended use but the ear-cups together with the headband are quite huge.
So people with smaller heads might have trouble achieving a good fit, even at the lowest setting of the headband there is still the chance that the headphone will feel too big and loosely fitted.
The HIFIMAN Edition XS features an interchangeable cable system with 3.5mm plugs on the headphone side that allows for easy cable swapping.
The stock 1.5m long cable is too short for home use and is of typical quality with a rubberized sheathing that looks durable and it doesn’t induce any microphonic noise.
There are no accessories except for a 6.35mm audio adapter, no carrying case or a simple storage pouch.
The new package includes a foam headphone stand.
Power requirements and associated gear
The nominal impedance of the HIFIMAN Edition XS is 18Ω with a rated sensitivity of 92dB so they are not that hard to drive and a powerful USB DAC dongle like the iBasso DC04 Pro or the FiiO KA5 will do the trick for portable use.
Real user experience though proved that they scale pretty well and require plenty of current to get the best out of them so something more powerful is highly recommended.
Not necessarily stationary, like the EarMen ST-Amp or the HIFIMAN EF400 that I have used but also something more portable like the FiiO Q7 and the Mojo 2 that yielded excellent results.
Except for the stock cable I have also used the Lavricables Ultimate, pure silver cable.
This section includes brief comparisons with the HIFIMAN Ananda Stealth (V2), Arya Stealth and Sundara (2020 edition).
The tonal balance of the HIFIMAN Edition XS is exceptional, this is one of the best tuned HIFIMAN headphones with the usual neutral sound signature of the company but this time with a warmer tilt and less brightness.
The tuning is very close to that of the Ananda but with less energy in the upper treble, a difference that makes the Ananda sound cleaner and more detailed than the Edition XS which in contrast is smoother and less bright.
On the other hand it is not as smooth and warm as the Sundara but it has deeper bass extension, greater transparency, it is more resolving and refined with better overall technicalities.
In this regard the Edition XS is a step up in performance from the Sundara and is positioned closer to the Ananda and the Arya when the Sundara is the culmination of HIFIMAN’s entry level category.
The HIFIMAN Edition XS is even and coherent with great tonal accuracy, all instruments of the symphony orchestra and voices sound correctly pitched, from the fundamentals to the overtones, and are reproduced in a realistic manner.
The bass extends deep enough and has a perfectly neutral and linear frequency response all the way to the mid-range without any given emphasis.
There are no signs of bleeding into the mids and absolutely not a trace of mid-bass or higher frequency masking.
This is a reference tuning so people who like over-emphasized bass should better look elsewhere although this doesn’t necessarily exclude the Edition XS from sounding fun and enjoyable with modern beats and electronic tunes.
The bass is tight, fast and controlled with excellent definition and great layering precision.
The texture is typical planar, more lean than visceral and not that full bodied, crystal clear and well defined but not too dry while it retains the same weight intensity throughout the whole frequency range without becoming thinner in the treble like some budget HIFIMAN headphones do.
Macro dynamics are very satisfying, the Edition XS is not that physically impactful as the Ananda, the Arya or dynamic drivers of the same category but it still has plenty of punchiness and force for a realistic and highly contrasted listening experience.
The mid-range is balanced and evenly tuned, not as prominent as in the Sundara but it does have a touch of extra upper-mids emphasis that adds clarity and energy without leading into edginess or sharpness.
The timbre is natural and realistic with plenty of harmonic variety while the presentation is lively and airy with good transparency and clarity.
The listener can easily focus on solo instruments and voices as they emerge through the orchestra and while the Edition XS is not as lush and rounded as the Sennheiser HD650, it is sweeter and warmer than other HIFIMAN headphones.
The treble is not as extended and resolving as in the Ananda or the Arya but it is not lacking in transparency while it is relatively smoother and less bright with a more easy going nature.
The HIFIMAN Edition XS has plenty of energy and luminosity on tap, it is airy and lively with good detail retrieval without sounding analytical and boring.
It is a rather revealing and exposing headphone but definitely more forgiving than the Ananda and the Arya although not as much as the Sundara.
Going back to the comparison with the Ananda or the Arya, the truth is that the Edition XS can’t resolve as well and could use some more refinement but on the other hand it edges the Sundara in these aspects.
The soundstage of the HIFIMAN Edition XS is wide and spacious, easily surprising all the Sennheiser HD6xx series of headphones and by a tiny margin the Sundara.
The presentation is open and quite holographic, not that deep but with plenty of air around the performers and a sharp positioning.
The listener is placed closer to the performers and not as far away as in the Ananda or the Arya but it doesn’t get too intimate as to become oppressed by large symphony orchestras.
Truly enough, listening to works, like the Brahms 4th symphony, the listener feels like he is conducting the orchestra.
In the end
The HIFIMAN Edition XS is a truly excellent headphone both in terms of sound quality and comfort that easily surpasses much of the competition at this price point.
It has a tuning that is well suited for people who love the typical HIFIMAN sound signature but always wanted something more smooth and forgiving while it is technical enough to successfully bridge the gap between the mid and the upper tier offerings by the company.
HIFIMAN was always about excellent price for performance ratio but this time they have raised the bar even higher making the Edition XS one of the best value headphones in the market right now.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2023.
Pros: + Balanced and neutral tuning
+ Excellent technicalities
+ More forgiving and smooth than the Ananda and the Arya
+ More resolving and refined than the Sundara
+ Large soundstage with great imaging
+ Good build quality
+ Lightweight and very comfortable for extended periods of use
+ Easy to replace cable
Cons: – This is still a revealing and neutral bright headphone
– Materials and appearance are not as premium as some of the competition
– Not that suitable for portable use due to the power requirements
– People with smaller heads might find the headphone too big
– Lack of accessories
– The included cable is too short and of typical quality